Anxiety is a common mental health issue that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterised by feelings of unease, worry, and fear. Anxiety can be triggered by a wide range of events or experiences, from traumatic events and stressful life changes to everyday situations like public speaking or traveling.
While anxiety is a normal response to stress and danger, it can become a problem when it starts to interfere with daily life, impacting one’s ability to work, socialise, and enjoy life.
In this article, we will cover how to overcome anxiety by breaking its cycle. A licensed clinical psychologist and anxiety expert will guide us through the four steps involved in breaking the cycle of anxiety.
These steps include reducing triggers, calming the body, controlling thoughts, and facing fears. By following these steps, individuals can gain control over their anxiety and reduce its impact on their daily life.
Step 1: Reducing Triggers
The first step in breaking the cycle of anxiety is to identify and reduce triggers. Triggers are the events or situations that cause anxiety to start. Triggers can vary from person to person and can include anything from work-related stress to fears of flying. By reducing triggers, individuals can reduce the number of times they experience anxiety.
There are several ways to reduce triggers, including reducing stress, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and changing the way we talk to ourselves. Additionally, it can be helpful to think about past experiences that may have contributed to anxiety and evaluate whether these experiences still apply to our lives.
For example, if someone experienced bullying in school, it can be helpful to reflect on whether they are now in a safe and supportive environment.
Step 2: Calming the Body
When anxiety is triggered, the body experiences the fight-or-flight response, which is the body’s natural response to danger. This response causes adrenaline to be released, leading to feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress. However, by calming the body, individuals can break the cycle of anxiety.
One way to calm the body is by controlling one’s breathing. Breathing is a powerful tool for calming the body and reducing anxiety.
By breathing low and slow using the diaphragm, individuals can activate the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, which helps to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. This type of breathing, also known as belly breathing, is a simple and effective way to calm the body.
Step 3: Controlling Thoughts
Anxiety often causes individuals to experience negative thoughts and fears. These thoughts can be overwhelming and difficult to control. However, by controlling thoughts, individuals can reduce the impact of anxiety on their lives.
To control thoughts, it is important to evaluate the fears and worries that are causing anxiety. By putting these fears into words and evaluating their validity, individuals can step back from their anxiety and gain control over their thoughts.
For example, if someone has a fear of flying, they can evaluate whether this fear is based on a realistic threat or if it is simply a false alarm. By evaluating their thoughts, individuals can convince their brain that their anxiety is not based on a real threat and reduce its impact on their lives.
Step 4: Facing Fears
The final step in breaking the cycle of anxiety is to face fears. This step involves facing the events or situations that cause anxiety and learning to cope with them.
By facing their fears, individuals can reduce the power of their anxiety and gain confidence in their ability to handle difficult situations.
Facing fears can be a difficult process, and it is important to approach it in a gradual and controlled way. This can involve starting with small, less threatening situations and gradually working up to more challenging ones.
This process can be supported by therapy, which can help individuals develop coping strategies and techniques to manage anxiety. Additionally, it is important to remember that it is normal to experience some anxiety when facing fears, but this anxiety should decrease over time as individuals become more comfortable with the situation.